Can it really happen again? Can Americans be stampeded into another war? Will electoral politics again pressure us to abandon our responsibility to be a check on the reckless use of military power? Can the same discredited arguments and appeals to emotion work again?
The final military personnel left Iraq on December 31, 2011. They leave behind a broken nation, a discredited policy and an immoral war. In the run-up to the war in Iraq, the corporate media, Congress and the American people failed to have the debate over whether to go to war and why. It looks like the same failure is about to be repeated.
You remember the Iraq war don't you? Almost 5,000 dead Americans...hundreds of thousands wounded or broken...one million or more Iraqis killed, wounded or fled the nation...$1 trillion expended and the military stretched beyond its limit? You remember how we had to make sure the next thing we saw wasn't a mushroom cloud over Manhattan? Economic sanctions were not working we were told and the only option left was military force. Saddam Hussein was not a rational actor. He has gassed his own people. He was crazy..a maniac...he didn't value human life...he rewarded terrorists who attacked Israel...he was trying to build a nuclear weapon. Do you remember? Do we remember?
President Bush scheduled a vote, authorizing military force against Iraq, right before the mid-term elections in 2002. Democrats were afraid to vote no and be attacked on the campaign trail as being soft on terrorism. Senators Clinton, Edwards and Kerry wanted to run for president in 2004 and their ambition overrode common sense and they voted to go to war. (Clinton would be president today had she opposed the Iraq war). The corporate media was under siege by the regressive echo machine and had no interest in fostering a debate. War is good for ratings. They were intimidated and scared to ask aggressive questions challenging the Bush Administration's claims. (Dan Rather and others admitted as much years later) It's happening again even with the Iraqi disaster still fresh in our minds.
President Obama is afraid of losing the Jewish vote. His challengers are pandering to Israel at every opportunity. Obama assured AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), he wouldn’t allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. He went out of his way to say the use of military force is on the table and a viable option. Once again, Republicans are leading the charge to war and Democrats are cowering in silence out of fear of being hurt politically.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wrote an op-ed piece for USA Today which could have been written in 2002 in support of going to war with Iraq. In his column, Huckabee argues for an aggressive, military-heavy approach to Iran. Why? 1) Iran hates Israel and threatens to wipe them off the map. 2) Israel still has holocaust survivors reminding us about the threat of the Nazis and the tragedy of the holocaust. Iran is now in the role of the Nazis. 3) Iran isn't rational...it crushes dissent...kills its own people...supports terrorism..shoots women in the street...denies the holocaust and cannot be expected to act in any way like a normal nation. 4) Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 90 days. (Remember when Colin Powell told us Iraq could load and fire a missile with chemical weapons in 45 minutes?) 5) Iran is an imminent threat to the United States and could attack with nuclear-armed missiles. 6) Iran could give a WMD to a terrorist organization. Sound familiar?
Huckabee's rehashing is deja vu all over again. What is remarkable is this time the intelligence community says Iran doesn't have a weapon yet and is as much as a year away from one. Playing the role of George W. Bush is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is saying they may have one already. He believes we can’t wait for sanctions to work. He is willing to act unilaterally and attack Iran dragging us with him in a death grip. He is the one making claims the intelligence doesn't support. President Obama has been willing to call Netanyahu out in the past; however, in an election year he has become docile and compliant. He has allowed Netanyahu to lecture him in public, criticize him in an address to Congress and give aid and comfort to his political enemies and Netanyahu pays no price for his actions.
A military attack on Iran would be a disaster. Unlike Syria and Iraq, where Israel destroyed nuclear reactors built by someone else, Iran has the technology and scientific know how to replace whatever is destroyed. Attacking Iran might delay the day they get a nuclear weapon, but no more than that. We need them to give it up on their own. An attack unites the country behind this morally bankrupt regime. An attack on Iran guarantees a response, which will include missile, attacks on Israel, closure of the straits of Hormuz, attacks on Americans in Afghanistan and throughout Europe and Asia. Worst of all, an attack on Iran puts a match to a tinderbox in the Middle East. It would be the third Muslim nation in a row we have attacked or supported attack. Al Qaeda, which is on the ropes, is reviving in Syria and Yemen and this would a recruiting dream. No military analyst believes an attack can destroy Iran's bomb making capabilities forever. An attack has multiple downsides and virtually no upside.
In July, the European Union cuts off Iranian oil purchases. Sanctions on Iran's central bank, and on international banks laundering Iranian money, are beginning to work. Iran's currency is devaluing every day and they can’t get access to dollars for much longer. Shipping companies won't carry Iranian oil because they can't be paid and don't wish to be black listed by the U.S. and Europe. Fissures are appearing in Iran between the country's leaders. Opposition to the Iranian leaders grows. (Opposition would cease to exist if Iran is attacked; as it would be seen as treason and they would be accused of being agents of the U.S. and Israel.) More sanctions are being imposed and both Russian and China are onboard. Their support could quickly dry up post attack.
A recent poll in Israel shows the majority of Israelis oppose an attack not supported by the United States. It is clear, they expect us to jump into the fray if war breaks out.
Can you think of a single prominent American politician who is a vocal supporter of sanctions vs. military action? Where is the debate? How can we be thinking about another war and again have no discussion...no back and forth...no pros and cons? Did we learn nothing in the last 10 years?
Is there any doubt in your mind if Israel attacks Iran, in a presidential election year, this nation will march in lockstep and support Israel to our own detriment? Is there any politician who could withstand the pressure and not cave?
Maybe attacking Iran is necessary. However, will we again blunder into the use of military force without understanding all the ramifications? Shouldn't we have a national debate? Can Huckabee et. al. get away with recycling Iraq war excuses and slap them on this shabby excuse for a policy debate? Do we let Israel be the tail that wags the dog? How do we slow things down? What do you think?